According to recent figures from Zendesk around 60% of companies are using social media for both marketing and customer services.

But who should take the lead?  

We ask the experts for their views.

In many companies the marketing department has driven social media adoption and usage. Yet some are starting to question whether customer service, with its focus on delivering value, isn’t better suited to managing social customer engagement.

It’s a controversial topic and customer service consultant Martin Hill-Wilson, is unequivocal in his response:

Marketing’s DNA is not to run operational stuff or clean up other functions messCustomers are for life. They are not just campaign outcomes. 

MD of social media agency Immediate Future, Katy Howell, sees things differently:

Customer service brings techniques that allow a deeper interaction with individuals, alongside efficient workflow and management, but it’s marketing that understands how the brand can then be represented online – the wider implications and the need to represent brand values and messages. 

Many large organisations, such as Dell and Zappos, have side-stepped the marketing/customer service question by creating cross-departmental social media teams that manage and filter queries to the right departments.  

Yet even these social media management models aren’t perfect. Author and consultant, Brian Solis writes on his blog:

The customer doesn’t see, nor do they care about, who owns social media. They see one company and they simply need an informed and empathetic response. 

He also champions the need for real-time customer service, saying:

Businesses must look at creating a holistic experience where customer service extends to social media, providing engagement and resolution at the time and place of the social expression”

Katy Howell agrees: 

Time is the biggest issue. Call centres and customer service departments focus on resolution in the fastest time. Social media doesn’t always fit into a clear workflow management.

When asked how such end-to-end, cross-departmental and real-time engagement can be achieved Martin Hill-Wilson suggests a combination of “collaboration software, to get the right groups talking, Customer interaction analytics, to provide the insight and evidence to generate change and Customer Experience Leaders, to provide the methodology for making it happen”.

Katy Howell claims marketing has an active role to play in this:

Companies need to redesign their processes for managing social customers. The starting point is to understand the voice of the customer. Looking for patterns and establishing a typical consumer journeys – the journey through issue resolution and the one across a sale. 

Martin-Hill Wilson, Katy Howell and Head of Digital Strategy & Adoption at Everything Everywhere, Ben Kay, plus Citibank’s Frank Eliason (formerly @comcastcares) and others will be debating the relationship between Marketing and Customer Services in social media at The Social Customer 2012 in London, 29 March.